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The Link Between ADHD and Analysis Paralysis

An older woman is sitting on the couch in her living room. She has her hand on her head and has a distressed look on her face.

The Link Between ADHD and Analysis Paralysis

An older woman is sitting on the couch in her living room. She has her hand on her head and has a distressed look on her face.

Living with ADHD can present unique challenges that extend beyond the commonly known symptoms of impulsivity and hyperactivity. One lesser-discussed struggle for individuals with ADHD is what’s known as “analysis paralysis.” This phenomenon can significantly impact daily life, hindering decision-making and productivity. Because of the way ADHD impacts the brain, the feeling of having “too many thoughts” is persistent. This “excess of thoughts” can also be an excess of perspectives, making decisions feel impossible.

The feeling of unending busyness in the mind is a recurrent theme among patients we see for ADHD therapy in Woodland Hills. This analysis paralysis joins the ranks of decision fatigue, racing thoughts that disrupt sleep schedules, procrastination, and forgetfulness as one of the intrusive side effects of ADHD.

The Phenomenon of Analysis Paralysis

Analysis paralysis refers to the state of being unable to make decisions or take action due to overthinking or excessive analysis of potential outcomes. For individuals with ADHD, this can manifest as a persistent feeling of being stuck, overwhelmed, or unable to move forward, even in seemingly simple tasks. The mind becomes trapped in a loop of evaluating possibilities, often leading to frustration and anxiety. This phenomenon can be particularly frustrating for those with ADHD, as it adds an extra layer of complexity to managing daily responsibilities and goals.

3 Ways to Overcome Analysis Paralysis

In this image there is a a planner and calendar on a desk. A woman is writing in her planner. Her laptop is open in front of her.

1) Set Clear Priorities and Goals

Break down tasks into manageable steps and identify what needs to be accomplished first. By focusing on specific objectives, individuals with ADHD can redirect their attention away from endless deliberation towards taking concrete actions. Utilizing tools like lists, planners, or digital apps can be immensely helpful in organizing priorities and maintaining focus.

When you think about how to break down a task, consider the pieces of the puzzle and the point at which you can begin your project. For example, if you want to clean your room, you may soon find yourself overwhelmed trying to pick a place to start. If you think about clearing off your desk, that might require too many steps. The same might apply to organizing your closet. What if you decided to begin by stacking all books together somewhere instead? Books on a shelf, on your desk, next to your bed, on the floor, or anywhere else would all get piled on one shelf or in one area of the room. That is a clear step that is ultimately part of the larger goal of tidying your room, but it also achieves organization and decluttering in and of itself. How many “puzzle pieces” can you come up with to take on? Think of being able to describe every task into as short a completed sentence as possible. In this example, “All books are together.” The next step might be all clothes together, all shoes together, all hats together, and so on.

Cleaning your room is one thing; you know at a certain point that it needs to be done. Other tasks might present the issue of when you need to tackle them. If you struggle to identify your highest priorities, take some time to consider your highest values. Your priorities will be the tasks, goals, and choices that align with your highest values. Whether you value friends, family, financial security, creative freedom, looking after your health, or any other aspect of life, your values will show you what you innately prioritize. These have to be balanced with non-negotiables that meet your basic needs, such as facilitating food, water, shelter, rest, and clothing.

Practice releasing analysis about low-stakes decisions by not making them. You may delegate these choices (to someone who is willing and able to take on that task for you or to a randomizer such as flipping a coin or another method that suits what you have access to). Some examples of low-stakes decisions include which pair of pants to wear (when both are equally appropriate and comfortable), which snack to grab before you head out the door (when you enjoy both equally), which street to take on your way somewhere (when both offer equal timing), and so on. Getting rid of smaller decisions can not only reduce the number of decisions you’re making in a day, help combat decision fatigue that can contribute to paralysis but also help you focus your attention on what is more important to you.

While breaking goals down and dealing with lower-stakes tasks and goals, don’t let yourself become overwhelmed or intimidated by the more significant decisions. Recruit help and support! Your biggest priorities will feel high-stakes, and the pressure can be a lot to take on. Whether the people around you are helping you to work through the process of setting your priorities and goals or providing breaks from it, they can help you as you take on the work. You can always start with one specific goal: to begin. When planning your decision and considering your options, make sure you note when you are beginning. Step one: take a step. If you’re already considering your goals and priorities, you’ve started and can cross step one off your list.

2) Practice Mindfulness and Grounding Techniques

An African American young woman is meditating on the floor of her bedroom. She has her legs crossed with her eyes closed.

Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation can help calm an overactive mind and bring awareness back to the present moment. By fostering a sense of mindfulness, individuals with ADHD can enhance their ability to make decisions without getting overwhelmed by excessive thoughts. This ability to focus and clarify comes with time and consistent effort.

These techniques are practiced by patients at home and here at our Woodland Hills ADHD therapy sessions. It is important to come up with a routine that works for you in your daily life, in your body, and in your mind. Whether you attend in-person or online ADHD therapy, make sure you can comfortably explore and experience the benefits of these techniques, providing feedback as you determine what works best for you. You may decide that some techniques need adjusting over time and bring them into therapy with you for some workshopping. You may discover other ways toward mindfulness when you are paying attention to your daily routine. What matters is that you are honest with yourself about the process and how it is working for you.

If your ADHD diagnosis has come as an adult, you may be navigating your routines, thoughts, patterns, and behaviors with fresh eyes. An adult ADHD diagnosis can bring to light a lot of past struggles and offer new ways forward in dealing with them. Many patients share this frustration with me as an ADHD counselor in Woodland Hills. A lifetime of experience feeling ungrounded and anxious isn’t likely to disappear all at once, but great improvements can be made by employing these techniques.

Mindfulness exercises connect us to our bodies. This is why deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation are beneficial; we feel their effects on our bodies. Committing to focusing on our bodies takes us out of our minds and thoughts and allows us to recalibrate. You can focus on your breath anywhere, but it is most beneficial if you can relax in some way, either seated or lying down, and it can be helpful to close your eyes. You might focus on how your ribs feel when they expand or place a hand on your belly to remind you to breathe deep and use your diaphragm.

Progressive muscle relaxation is an exercise of tensing and then relaxing muscle groups. Find somewhere where you will not be disturbed and set aside some time for this process. Begin somewhere, say in your hand or foot or your neck and shoulders; tense the muscles you can tense, then relax them. Notice how you feel when you have relaxed. Be cautious not to over-tense and hurt yourself. Take a deep breath, tense your muscles for five or so seconds, then release while exhaling. Move your way through your body through hands, feet, legs, posterior chain, abdominals, arms, neck, and shoulders on each side of the body. You may want to find an audio guide for the process as you are learning and keep utilizing it to ensure you don’t become complacent or rush through once you are in a routine.

You can use your senses to ground yourself as well. This can be helpful when stressors arise during the day and you need to regulate your nervous system on the go. You can work sensory stimuli into your regular meditative practice. Touching something to remind yourself that you are present and connected to the earth can help you to transition out of your thoughts and feel grounded. Smelling or tasting something that comforts you can awaken those senses. You may choose to look at an image that makes you feel calm or listen to music that soothes you. Any combination of your senses can help you to relax and reconnect with your body when needed.

3) Implement Time Limits and Structured Breaks

A young woman is sitting in her office with her laptop open in front of her. There are green plants surrounding her. She has her eyes closed and her hands behind her head.

Set deadlines for making choices and allocate specific periods for deliberation. During breaks, engage in activities promoting relaxation and creativity, such as walking or listening to music. By incorporating structured time management into daily routines, individuals with ADHD can prevent themselves from becoming entangled in prolonged periods of indecision.

Time limits are an excellent hack for people who have ADHD because the adrenaline rush of a deadline is beneficial. To prevent procrastination and stress, practice setting a deadline much earlier than you actually need to make your decision by. At first, you may find yourself delaying, waiting for that boost of energy that you get from waiting until the last minute. That’s okay and a normal part of the process of learning a new behavior pattern. Change takes practice. Focus on progress, not perfection. Progress can be slow, and there can be setbacks; that is normal. Perfection doesn’t exist; striving for it won’t help you, and in fact, it will harm you.

Give yourself more time for bigger decisions and less time for smaller ones. When allocating your deliberation time, consider if there are external deadlines (like due dates). Also, remember if your decision will impact other people and the time it might take to discuss and collaborate with them. If other people will be involved, it is best to reach out to them in time to ensure that they aren’t going to be rushed.

Plan breaks and also set cues for yourself to recognize when you need one. If you are re-reading the same lines over and over again or going in circles, you aren’t making headway. When you feel pent-up frustration in your body, shortness of breath, head and neck tension and pain, nausea in your stomach, and other symptoms of anxiety, take a break. Even if you haven’t reached a point where you determined you’d take a break, give yourself that break. Walk around the block, have some water, listen to some songs, and dance it out in your living room. Find a way to

The breaks you take are established to help you relax and maintain a feeling of mental wellness. An inability to regulate the time you spend analyzing can lead to a build-up of anxiety. You may find yourself lying awake at night ruminating about the things still left to do or plans you want to organize. Poor sleep can have a massive impact on your daily life; it is already hard for most people with ADHD to get out of bed in the morning. Disrupting your sleep schedule due to racing thoughts does not help. Set aside time to meditate before bed as one of your structured breaks. In meditation, we allow thoughts to surface, notice them without judgment, and let them fade away. It can take some practice to observe our thoughts in a neutral way, but even as progress is made, the benefits can be enjoyed.

A young woman is sitting at the desk of her office. She has her laptop open in front of her as she smiles.

Analysis paralysis can manifest as overwhelming anxiety, constant second-guessing and self-doubt, procrastination, and avoidance. All of these things can exacerbate one another, and none of them make living your life any easier. It will take practice and trial and error, but there will be a way for you to implement tools, plans, schedules, mindfulness, and self-awareness to reduce the stress of your analysis paralysis. Remember that times of heightened stress may cause you to make missteps; that is a normal part of life and of managing your ADHD. The key is to be consistent and flexible so that you know you can get back to a routine supporting your decision-making goals. Your ability to consider things from multiple sides and angles can be an ADHD superpower, but no superpower is worth struggling with every day. Find a way to channel your creative thinking into other outlets, and learn how to focus on the task at hand when necessary.

ADHD Treatment at Embracing You Therapy

ADHD symptoms significantly affect time management and task completion. Most people with ADHD struggle with procrastination and paralysis analysis.  ADHD Treatment in our offices in Woodland Hills is designed to identify the unique challenges of your ADHD symptoms in your school or work life and create action steps that can be quickly and effectively integrated into your life. Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Admin Team.!

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